North Korea’s launch of a ballistic missile over the Sea of Japan on February 12 came about a week after the US successfully destroyed the same type of intermediate range ballistic missile in a test off Hawaii.
The interceptor that took out the land-launched missile was fired from the USS John Paul Jones destroyer on February 3 in the first test of the device, known as the new Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IIA. It was developed by Raytheon Co. of the US and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in Japan under the US Missile Defence Agency.
“The SM-3 Block IIA program continues to reflect MDA’s commitment to maturing this regional ballistic missile defense capability for the defense of our nation, its deployed forces and our allies abroad,” said Dr. Taylor W. Lawrence, Raytheon Missile Systems president, in a press release. “This test success keeps the program on track for deployment at sea and ashore in the 2018 timeframe.”
Despite the larger size and greater capability of the SM-3 Block IIA , no modifications are necessary for the interceptor to be loaded into any existing vertical launch system now aboard a large number of U.S. and Japanese AEGIS-class destroyers and cruisers.
This sets the stage for U.S., Japanese, and South Korean warships to carry additional firepower to complement land-based missile intercept systems, including the land-based Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD).
It was recently announced that THAAD will be deployed in East Asia, including South Korea, a move that has drawn irritation from North Korea and China.
With the success of the Hawaii test, the Asian missile defense game has heated up considerably and deployment of the SM-3 Block IIA will add to the irritation. It’s impossible to say how many missile interceptors are already mounted aboard U.S. warships in the region, but it could be several hundred.
Putting land-based variants of the SM-3 is also an option. This has already happened in Romania.
Missile defense development is growing in intensity elsewhere.
Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system on February 8 intercepted three of four rockets fired at Eliat city and the country is rolling out other anti-missile and anti-rocket systems to deal with other threats, including from Iran. In September 2016, Iron Dome intercepted a rocket fired at Israel from Syria for the first time.
Moshe Patel who heads the Israel Missile Defense Organization told Defense News on January 18 that the country had entered what he calls the “Arrow 3 era” to extend the range of Israel’s Arrow 2 missile interceptors.
Then about a week later, Israel’s latest version of its David’s Sling had its fifth successful test. David’s Sling is a missile defense system designed to protect against large-caliber rockets, and short-range ballistic missiles and other threats. Here again, Raytheon serves a subcontractor with Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems as the lead contractor.
There is a possible thread running through these various missile development projects.
Iran’s Fars News Agency reported on February 4 — a week before the North Korean missile launch — that a warning to US forces based in Bahrain was issued by Mojtaba Zonour, a former advisor to the Iranian Supreme Leader’s Representative at the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC).
“The US (Navy’s) Fifth Fleet has occupied a part of Bahrain, and the enemy’s farthest military base is in the Indian Ocean, but these points are all within the range of Iran’s missile systems and they will be razed to the ground if the enemy makes a mistake,” Zonour said, according to the report.
“And only 7 minutes is needed for the Iranian missile to hit Tel Aviv,” added Zonour, who now serves as a senior member of Iran’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission.
Iran also tested a medium-range ballistic missile on January 29, which the country insisted did not violate the UN Security Council resolution in 2015 to prevent the country developing a nuclear weapon.
However, the German newspaper Die Welt appears to be the only news outlet to detect and report a possible simultaneous firing of a nuclear-capable cruise missile by the Iranians.
The firing of the Sumar cruise missile should have triggered an even stronger admonishment from US President Donald Trump’s national security advisor Michael Flynn who put the Iranians “on notice” as a result of their January ballistic missile test.
Iran’s low-flying and increasingly stealthy cruise missiles represent a serious threat to U.S. warships patrolling the Persian Gulf and the Straits of Hormuz in particular.
“We are working day and night to protect Iran’s security. If we see smallest misstep from the enemies, our roaring missiles will fall on their heads,” head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards’ aerospace unit, Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh was quoted as saying by Tasnim news agency.
In so many words, this is the message the U.S. and its allies, Israel and Japan, are sending to their potential adversaries as well.
Hence, in 2017 in different regions of military tension, steady progress has been made in building the so-called 4-layer missile defense capable of defeating close in, short, medium and long-range missiles and rockets.
Japan is proceeding down the same path as Israel in terms of deploying a battle-ready, joint multi-layer missile defense capability.
Another iron in the fire includes the USS Zumwalt, the largest destroyer ever built by the US Navy which arrived in San Diego in December and may soon pay a visit to South Korea. Two more are under construction.
The Zumwalt’s presence anywhere west of Japan and so close to North Korean waters will set off alarm bells in China and North Korea.
The ultra-sophisticated, electric-powered Zumwalt is designed to add a new dimension to the US Navy’s land attack capabilities and it isn’t equipped with existing SM-3’s let alone the SM-3 Block IIA or any other missile interceptors. Still, that could change.
Meantime, the presence of the Zumwalt and the recent success of the SM-3 Block IIA missile killer allows the US and its allies to send a strong message to potential adversaries. And the message is clear.
Since the North Koreans are more intelligent than the Americans, there is no doubt that North Korea will develop an ICBM that the Americans will find it very difficult or even impossible to intercept. Anyway, the fact that North Korea has nuclear and ICBM capabilities is sufficient to stabilise the situation in the Korean Peninsula.
"Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system on February 8 intercepted three of four rockets "….. The games people play. Just 1 missile to get through is enough especially its nuclear tipped.
The only missiles that the US has successfully shot down were those where the US knew where they were to be launched from, the time of launch, the speed and traajectory of the missile. I would expect that within a few months that is what we will find happened this time as well.
Hardly a real time test where the enemy fires multible missiles from undetermined locations. Just another train load of money for the MIC.
Thats exactly right . The Russians could wipe out the USA if only 2 or 3 percent of there thermo nuclear tipped ICBMs got through. If the US thought for a New York Minute that they could successfully attack North Korea it would already have been done.
We know all about US super weapons we have been watching them in action ever since the fall of the Soviet Union, They have not been able to win a single war, and thats against countries that do not have the means to shoot back in any meaningful way. if the US thought that it had the means to shoot down all of Russia´s and China´s ICBMs, the war would already have been fought and over. No they do not have the intestinal fortitude to fight peer countries, the only thing about North Korea is that although not a peer country has enough muscle to make the US pay a horrendous price in blood and treasure. Articles like this do not change that fact.
Thats right , wonderland hubris , working its magic ? Tried to tell relative recently of Russian potential and supposed more advanced and accurate system. His reply was the US dosent let out its secret capabilities and therefor no doubt that the US has the more advanced system. I could have argued more but why bother. While he may have been willing to bet on it. I on the other , understanding the zero game involved, why bother even saying more . I know on the world scale the US is suppose to have more tonnage of nuclear power stored up compared to the Russians. My argument would be , even if so , if only one gets thru , who wins. Its a zero end game no matter how one looks at it. China capabilities is another story. But if one considers how the sleeping giant woke up for WWll . Think of the potential of China , which has begun to wake up, especially under the new administration in the US. Not only China but others , like Germany and EU. The entire world under trade protectionism is rearming itself. One other time in history like this and it didnt protect anyone in the end. An aloud mouth leader blerting to the populace on public radio daily propaganda. The equivilant of modern day Tweets of which the presidential library will be made up of. If we make it to there. Thanks Thomas for your posts . Remember them from the older format on here. Left for awhile and back again. Miss the letters to the editor that were on the older format. Not sure I like this new site. Did not realize it had been sold .
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